The Book that did not Save my Life, but Saved me from my Life

As a child, my life was very sad. Sad and sadenogenic (sorry for that!). Horrible mistake the mismatch of my parents, joined together – forever – by the Holy Roman Church. Embarked as they were in the impossible attempt of trying to join the opposites they forgot the existence of the three little people they gave life to, to one for love, to the other two, for sex.

At 12, I was a skeptic who could experience some pleasure only in books and a good fight.

I used to read anything I could access.  Not having money to buy books, my sources were the limited school library and the second-hand book stalls where I could convert my school sandwich money into an American novel by Hemingway, Steinbeck, Thornton Wilder. I did not like them, but they were the only novels I could buy with 30 lira.

My third book source was my father’s library, but that was a strategically designed trap. Top bookshelves accommodated books my father did not want me to read; on the middle shelves, History, Latin writers and poets, the history of the Roman Empire and the History of the whole bloody World, revolutions included.

Lower shelves hosted the books that, according to my father’s judgement and wishes, I could and should read. Literature, mostly American but also Russian, Theatre, Poetry, and Mythology from every part of the Planet, Canadian northern territories included.

There was also a bottom, floor level shelf where old newspapers and “books of no importance” were kept. I used to call it “the Limbo”, something between Hell after Judgment and an exit corridor.

Boring. I was bored with all that mythology where nobody was ever nice and American literature that I found crude and graceless. So, one particularly boring day during school holidays, I fumbled among the books sitting on the bottom shelf and came across six volumes neatly standing side by side in their yellowish threadbare covers. I picked them up to look at them, read front and back covers, smelled them (yes, I smell books, always have). Published by Casa Editrice Bietti di Milano, author, P.G. Wodehouse. Of the six volumes, the title that attracted me the most was “l’Uomo con Due Piedi Sinistri”. I read it there and then. In less than a week, I had read them all.


That’s how I discovered that there exists a different world where things are light, nonlinear, tridimensional, unexpected, paradoxical, a-logical, exhilaratingly funny; a world where language is colourful, and flexible, never stifling unless you want it to be.


That’s also when and how I started living my double life: looking ever so serious and sanctimonious on the outside, always keeping alive within myself the light which that bottom shelf book had turned on many years earlier and, Thank God!, is still ablaze.

Barbara il forte




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